I’m going to be taking a hiatus from writing about toys to concentrate on a few outside projects that need my full attention, so this is going to be my last blog post for what might be quite awhile. And although I have a lot of great blogs sitting around in various stages of completion, one article in particular demands to be finished before I take my leave.
Five years ago, shortly before I left California for Texas, Julius Marx and I paid a visit to the studio of a truly fantastic artist, sculptor, and all-around great guy: Rubén Procopio. If you don’t recognize the name you surely will recognize his work (and if you don’t recognize the name, shame on you!).
First, Rubén has recently written an awesome book (with Tim Bruckner and Zach Oat), Pop Sculpture, that anyone who is interested in sculpture should read. If you want to be a sculptor, I would even say stop reading this blog right now and go buy a copy. It’s a really, really informative look at the whole process of creating action figures and statues based on popular media properties.
Second, Rubén has been involved in so many areas that are near and dear to my heart that I alternate being in awe of him and being bitterly jealous. Just kidding! But seriously, he started at the Disney Studios in the 1970s, following in the footsteps of his father, Adolfo Procopio (and if you’ve ever been to Disneyland or Disneyworld, you’ve seen a lot of Adolfo spectacular sculpts), and was mentored by the fabled Nine Old Men (Eric Larson in particular) as he rose through the ranks of Disney Animation.
In the 1980s, he was a key figure in bringing back the art of using animation maquettes to guide the artists, creating some of the first ones for The Great Mouse Detective, Oliver & Company, and The Little Mermaid. While at Disney, Rubén was also being mentored by Alex Toth, whose comic art style can be seen influencing Rubén’s take on The Phantom and Zorro. Since leaving Disney as an animation supervisor, Rubén has created sculptures for Walt Disney Consumer Products, Walt Disney Classics Collection, Bowen Designs, Sideshow Collectibles, and DC Direct through his Masked Avengers Studio. Most notably, he’s produced a wide array of items for his former Disney colleague Tracy Mark Lee at Electric Tiki. Rubén was further able to honor his long time love for pulp heroes by spearheading the Classic Heroes Collection, featuring everyone from Dick Tracy and Doc Savage to The Rocketeer and Hellboy. Even Lassie got some love! I can’t tell you how much I love this series; the only thing that would have made me happier is if they were able to make a figure line that looked just like these sculpts, only articulated.
He also oversaw a lot of product for the Disney Store through Disney Consumer Products in the 2000s, notably the new take on “Disney Heroes” as detailed, articulated action figures. We see some of the original sculpts in the pics below, but you really should go check out the second series that was never made. Just stunning stuff. The Beast would have made a terrific figure. A compatible line of Disney Princesses was also on the drawing board, but alas.
Rubén was gracious enough to let me take pictures of his workspace and some of his past projects to share. The artistry on display here just blows my mind, especially considering his medium of choice is Super Sculpey! So check out the pics below (click on a picture to enlarge and get commentary below each shot) and then leave some comments! And go check out his own blog for lots more gems! Sorry this article is less than timely, but hopefully it was worth the wait. And I’ll see you kids on the other side!